The road from our house around to the Stone Mountain batholith curves and winds up and down. Batholith is a clever way of saying a large single chunk of granite that has formed and cooled underground during the Appalachian mountain-building phase about 280 million years ago and now has eroded up and out of the ground. From Stone Mountain the highway bends less yet continues to roll over red dirt as we head toward Macon. I am half awake and the sun is coming up. I am cheating John Muir in his historic walk from the Appalachians to Savannah by means of following the Savannah river.
After Macon my wife is driving and fall asleep for a short period of time. When I jolt awake I notice the road has flattened and the road-cut through the tiny dips and hills looks like a miniature version of the badlands. Rolling water from the otherwise flat surface is gouging conical and fantastic mazes in the sand. The sand is white with a reddish tint. I also notice spanish moss hanging from the trees and I see scrub pines.
Another 100 miles roll by until I notice John Muir’s Palmetto trees and bushes populating the side of the road between the pines in the ever-increasing white sand earth. Muir was so excited to see his first Palmetto. He grew up in Scotland and emigrated to Illinois via New York and this was his first trip south when he walked the Savannah to the sea. Little did he know that some Palmettos grow in Scotland and the most northerly Palmetto lives in norther Scotland outside a hotel by a lac. Oh well.
It is our last day in Savannah on Sunday and we are up early and ready for the trudge home. We roll down a partial dirt road to Bonaventure cemetery where Muir slept each night to get away from the Collera and Typhus that rand rampant in Savannah in his era. He slept under some bushes near the Wilmington River in this cemetery. The dead can’t make you sick, only the living can do that.
I would be less scared of ghosts and more scared of alligators, I think as I look at the marshy terrain as it leads to the river bank from the old part of the cemetery. The day is so fresh; birds sing. There is a certain slight coolness and dampness in the air, but the sun is direct and hot on my shoulders. A boat passes lazily down the river creating small wake that lumbers like a day laborer in August to the shore. Lush green bushes and palmettos are canopied by live oaks and dangling spanish moss. The scene is sufficiently morose and life-giving at the same time. We awkwardly walk about and gaze at the remembrances of those who have come before us. My 11-year-old daughter pulls a scrap paper and pencil from the glove box and sits in the grass facing the river with her back to the grave stones and pens a poem. Something small and benign stirs under the bushes. The journey is complete.